Expectations come with the holidays. We expect the holidays to be joyful. We expect them to be busy. We expect to spend them with family and friends. Very often, we expect holidays to be “perfect.” It’s common and normal to have these expectations, especially if they’re based on past holidays we have experienced.
However, expectations are not always realistic or probable. Life is full of change. Our circumstances can change. Our lifestyle can change. The people in our lives can change. And, yes, the way we spend our holidays can change.
It is not unusual to be spending the holidays alone. Many people are by themselves on holidays. Being on your own for the holidays is not something to dread… and it does NOT mean you have to spend the time feeling “lonely.”
Believe it or not, it is possible to enjoy the holidays even if you do not have family or friends around you. Remember, plenty of people spend the holidays surrounded by other people only out of a feeling of obligation. Some desperately wish they had another option.
Here are a few suggestions you may find of value if you will be on your own this holiday season.
Do something for someone else. There’s nothing like helping someone else less fortunate to inspire some appreciation of your own life. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, hospital, or Alzheimer’s facility on a holiday. Not only will you be brightening somebody else’s holiday, you will be making yours special as well. Giving of yourself is always rewarding.
Fill the time. There are plenty of ways to stay busy and have some fun when you are your only companion for the holidays. You certainly don’t have to sit around doing nothing. Get out of the house and head to a movie or museum. Pamper yourself with a trip to a spa. If the weather is good, go to the park or take a hike. If the weather is not conducive to venturing outside, you can always indulge in a few indoor pleasures like soaking in a warm bath, enjoying a movie marathon, or watching a complete season or two of a favorite television show.
Make future plans. Organize something fun to do after the holidays. If there are people you would like to see but who happen to be busy over the holidays, come up with ideas for spending some quality time together later on. Make a list of people you would like to see. Then figure out how to make it happen. Having something to look forward to can help make a holiday brighter.
Bring people together. Most likely, you are not the only person you know who will be alone on a holiday. Find some folks who will also be on their own and plan a get-together. Maybe share a potluck dinner at your home on the holiday or enjoy a meal out together at a restaurant.
Don’t shove your feelings aside.You don't have to feel jolly all the time just because the holidays are here. It’s okay to feel down now and then about being alone over the holidays, but is not okay to let those feelings overwhelm you. Give yourself permission to think a negative thought, acknowledge the thought, and then let it go. Replace the thought by focusing on something positive about your life.
Write a letter or send a card. Most people enjoy receiving something in their mailbox, especially these days when email and texting have replaced the art of letter writing. Pick up pen and paper and write a meaningful note to someone you haven’t seen for a while or may have lost contact with over the years. Not only will the recipient get a kick out of receiving your letter, but writing it may be a step that brings you closer together again.
Do not focus on holidays of the past. It is wonderful to think back on fun holiday celebrations, but comparing a current holiday to memories of “perfect” holidays from years gone by is never helpful. In fact, it is only counterproductive. First of all, there is no such thing as a “perfect” holiday. We just tend to forget about the little things that went wrong or that were not so pleasant. It is much more fruitful to concentrate on making this year’s holiday enjoyable.
Catch up with family members and old friends. Make telephone calls to people you are thinking about on the special day. Simply checking in and hearing the voice of someone you care about can feel pretty great and help put a smile on your face. Try not to focus on the sadness of not being with the people you contact. Instead, focus on the fact that you are connecting with each person. Keep in mind that some folks may not be able to stay on the phone long if they are involved in a holiday celebration on their end.
Take a vacation. Okay, it isn’t always possible to get away for the holidays. But, if you have the time and the finances, taking a vacation can provide a nice break from the daily grind. Being in a different location on a holiday can give the day a completely different feel. It can make it less likely that you will spend the day comparing it to past holidays.